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The problem goes beyond Mourinho…the club needs a plan
Every problem foreshadowed by the appointment of Mourinho has unarguably come to pass. He’ll play dour, pragmatic football? Check. He’ll ignore youth? For the most part yep, check. Fall out with players, ostracise others? Check and check. Spend absolute boat loads of money? eh, Cheque? Worse still is his apparent failure to come up with a coherent plan for how he wants the side to play and, the ultimate sin, his complete inability to actually improve any of the talented players in his charge. All of that before we consider his paralysing fear when approaching important matches.
But sadly the problem is much bigger than Mourinho. In fact it goes all the way back to the mighty Sir Alex. The Great Scot left behind a Premier League title and a squad in total disarray. He had failed to purchase a centre midfielder for seven years prior to his departure leaving behind an ill Fletcher, ageing Carrick, ordinary Cleverly and, inexplicably, Anderson. The defence was getting old and only RVP & De Gea could actually claim to be top class. The lack of investment post Ronaldo was striking, the academy slowed to a trickle and United have been playing catch up ever since.
However, it’s ultimately the fault of the United Board for having no plan whatsoever for the post Ferguson era. No one noticed the degrading standard of the squad. No one asked the apocalyptic question “What if Alex dropped dead tomorrow?” The transfer policy since has been totally erratic. For all his undoubted talent why invest in Sanchez when both Martial and Rashford excel as left sided wide forwards? We still have no actual full backs and no right winger. And are we building the side around Pogba or not? If winning is all – why appoint Moyes? If attacking football and the ‘United way’ are important why appoint any of Moyes/LVG/Mourinho?
The reality is that finding the right guy is only possible if the Board know precisely what they want and how they want to do it in the first place. They clearly don’t. They’ve been staggering from crisis to crisis, a bit like Donald Trump’s White House, always reacting, without vision, direction or strategy. It’s in stark contrast to what’s going on up the road and there really is no easy fix. Firing Mourinho only leads to the next panicked appointment and so on.
All that being said – I realise finishing second in the league with a squad worth nearly a billion is a problem most clubs would kill to have.
Steve – Dublin
…I’m sure the mailbox will be it’s usual (excellent) mix of sling and arrows on matters Manchester United. Player X was awful, the manager is an embarrassment etc… My point is how did this great club end up here, and why has it looked so directionless on the pitch?
Since SAF retired, the lack of a Sporting Director has become even more obvious. Not only in regards to squad development, but the lack of playing identity. Players have been signed either because the manager knew them (Fellaini, Matic), signed as ‘marquee’ names (di Maria, Falcao… Pogba?), or for no obvious reason (Mkhitaryan, Sanchez). Whereas massive holes have been overlooked (x2 32yo first-choice fullbacks – FFS!). Going back to Sanchez; I’ve not written him off completely, but his signing smacks of finding a disregarded frying pan on the street. You already have lots of nice pans, you’ve no space for this one in your kitchen, you’ll spend a fortune on Brasso… but it’s that fancy brand, plus it’s ‘free’. A proper SD would have asked; where is he going to play? What problems will he solve? Is he a 400k/wk upgrade on what we already have? Basic diligence…But as Woodward is a Yes man, we’re stuck with a team who look like a group of strangers who’ve never met. And for all the talk of progress this year, more often than not watching United has been as enjoyable as chewing on cold sick.
And this lack of a playing style is even more pronounced due to our domestic rivals having distinct identities on the pitch. Again a SD would have a long-term plan (genuine wing play perhaps), would be looking at our youth teams, identifying targets to improve the team outside from the regular names in the gossip column. It wouldn’t solve all problems (though hopefully it would stop this insidious relationship with Raiola), but when the club is as directionless as it is, it much be given consideration.
Sure, the manager takes the largest slice of blame for last night…but it’s a big pie. I’m not bothered if he stays or goes; either way the football matters of the club have become too much to be looked after by one man.
…I think it’s time to end the experiment where United buy Woodward’s fantasy players and big names (on ridiculous salaries). Buying marquee players is the sign of a small club mentality and it’s clearly hurting the balance and confidence of the team. Sanchez and Pogba don’t help the team but they are making far more money than more useful players they are keeping out of it and force Jose into formations he isn’t confortable with and the team don’t seem capable of pulling off. Sell them in the summer to anyone stupid enough to pay money for them. Bring in the right winger the team actuallly needs and start trusting Martial and Rashford to take the team forwards. I’ve long held the belief that any player making 200 grand or more loses the incentive to keep pushing themselves and play to the best of their ability (I know the blue side of Manchester has a few that prove me wrong, but I give Pep full credit for that). Get rid and take a page out of Spurs’ book (but with a slightly higher pay structure).
There are enough young, talented players in the squad to keep United competitive in the league for the rest of the season and Jose can spend the summer signing players who fit what the team needs, instead of players to sell shirts and noodles. I’m sure Pogba and Sanchez would come good somewhere else and everyone would enjoy pointing and laughing at United for selling them, but they don’t work in this team. Cut our losses and build the team properly.
…Have City and United swapped their senior off-pitch staff? City, a club run by foreign sovereign wealth to paper over appalling human rights abuses with no background in football have been making astute purchases of young/pre-peak footballers who have developed at the club to become the among the best in their position in the PL (De Bruyne, Silva, Kompany, Aguero, Sterling, Ederson). Particularly, they are being bought with a clear plan of how the team and squad want to play.
United, a club with unparalleled recent history in the Premier League, a wealth of background experience of winning and unrivalled commercial heft have been panic buying and giving undeservedly large contracts to players that are in their late 20s (Rooney, Sanchez) or just buying the player everyone is raving about at the time (Pogba).
Honestly, the Sanchez story was one of the most pathetic things I have ever seen from a club with as much pride as United. Buying a player in their late 20s, giving them a salary of £350k a week, with no idea of how he would fit in the team just to grab him from City was something you would expect a club with an owner like City’s to do, not the other way round. City, to their credit, told Sanchez to jog on if he was more interested in money than being part of their project. That should have been United’s position.
It seems to me like every other major club has an idea of how they want to play, often these come with flaws, but the fans at least know there is some method to the madness. At the moment United seem to be going from one Instagram player announcement to another without much thought in between.
My team are five points behind United and got well beaten in our last match against them, but I think I know which team’s fans are happier at the moment.
Something tells me I’m into something utterly sh*te
It took about 11 months for the embarrassing ‘Chosen One’ banner to be removed from Old Trafford. The “Something tells me I’m into something good” chant, so beloved of the away Utd fans, and specifically the line “Jose’s got us playing the way United should”, has always been inaccurate but now 15 months later, seems well in need of retirement.
I can’t remember the last time the team were sent out with a clear attacking identity based on what we could do against the opposition, rather than what they might do to us. The performances against Chelsea, Liverpool and Palace were pathetic for most of the matches, despite the results. Mourinho consistently mistakes the oppositions’ ineptitude to score from a hatful of chances as demonstrating that Utd had some measure of control over the match in his post-match claims.
No – these are Burnley/Pulis/Allerdyce tactics, except they actually do it better, Jose just has better players.
I’m also bewildered how all the pundits on TV and radio were queuing up after the match to say they didn’t see this coming! I’ll admit I thought it would be an away goals elimination, as we should have suffered last season against Celta Vigo, the mid-table Spanish team built around a few Premier league rejects, when one of them kindly missed a last-minute sitter. This has been a consistent Jose approach, especially in Europe, and has been a long time coming.
Steven Gerrard’s blatant attempts on BT Sport after the match to keep Mourinho at Utd were pretty comical.
“It was just on off night”
“What and the first leg was an off night too?”
“Yeah I guess so”
I don’t blame him, we’ve all been doing the same with Wenger for years. The opposition will be delighted to keep Jose at Utd with his craven, fear-first, outdated, hand-brake on approach.
Can the incompetent board maybe consider finding a manager with an ounce of attacking intent? It is not a binary case of Jose’s negative, ground-out ‘success’ or going back to the failures of the sterile LVG/out-of-his-depth Moyes. The board keep forcing these obviously wrong managers onto the fans and they are the real behind-the-scenes villains of the piece. Get ta fuck.
Spain > England? Nah
Hugo in Adelaide has a theory, the theory being that united’s pathetic performance and result last night was because the fifth best team in La Liga are better than the second best team in the EPL. Whilst I agree La Liga is a very good league, let’s not pretend Sevilla are all that this season and definitely wouldn’t finish second in the EPL.
He also forgets to mention the second best team in La Liga was knocked out of the Champions League in a group containing the fifth best team in the EPL and the third best team in Serie A. Another thing he doesn’t take into consideration is that the third best team in La Liga lost and drew to the third best team in the EPL in the group stage.
What I’m trying to say, is his theory is flawed.
Tommy The Dutch (MCFC), Manchester
…I’ve heard a few comments chime with the one in the morning mailbox that this result shows the quality of La Liga and we underestimate it. The implication being that Man United v Sevilla is more of a close match than maybe we expected. Absolute rubbish.
Which league is better will always be a matter for debate. This season however we had three Champions League groups with an English and a Spanish team and in all three groups the English side finished above the Spanish team. That’s not to say the Premier League is definitely better but it’s close.
Even if the Spanish league is wonderful, Sevilla are not very good. They have lost 11 games in the league this season and were battered 5-1 in the Champions League by Spartak Moscow. They have lost every game they have played against the top three Spanish sides. They have 45 points and are closer to the relegation zone than they are to the top of the table. They’re closer to 13th than they are to 4th.
Don’t make excuses for United. They should have won this comfortably but they absolutely blew it. It’s not because Sevilla are better than we think it’s because United were so much worse than they should have been.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
Mourinho managing like it’s 2004…
I think the hierarchy is simple, but not the Spain > England one you suggest. The London clubs performed handsomely against Madrid in the groups, for instance, and I think Chelsea were unfortunate not to give Barca a hiding at Stamford Bridge (will clearly come back to haunt us tonight).
The explanation is that last night was 2010 (or 2004) football v 2017 football. There’s only one likely winner there, and it’s not Mourinho. You can make it stick for 90 minutes with a bit of luck (Chelsea, Liverpool, Sevilla away), but not 180. I wrote in about this after the first leg, hardly an original thought but hey, and it seems to have been borne out. And Mourinho cannot or will not change.
Sevilla are not that good – they have nothing left to play for domestically, were battered by the same Atletico team that couldn’t beat Chelsea a few weeks ago, and seemed a bit disjointed last night. A decent team would pick them apart, and United’s squad under better coaching could have done. I understand the league results have improved, but take it from Chelsea – this is the best it will get with José. Man United should find a way to get rid before the whole thing goes supernova, because it always, always does, and they can do better.
Sam (hoping against hope that Morata finds his inner 2012 Torres), CFC SW6
José Mourinho is the Champions League Tony Pulis
That should say everything it needs to. However, rather than leave that comment hanging, to be battered by the hot air blowing from Mourinho’s ludicrous post-match assertion that Utd had played aggressively, I’ll expand.
It matters not what players you fill your team with if the shape and ethos of the side you envision is a boulder: they will always be crude, immobile, and prehistoric. Both Pulis and Mourinho have owned and bought attacking players. But if you ask these attackers to play in a way that seeks to stifle first, constrain second, and rip the energy out of sides third, it can be of little surprise when you struggle to create anything other than a self-portrait made of sh*t.
I’ll admit, I’m a Utd who never wanted Mourinho – in my mind, Mauricio Pochettino was, and remains, the best candidate to take Utd forwards. However, even in my wildest nightmares, I didn’t expect such a poor return for the enormous amount of security and finances invested in him – circa £300million for a team who fear their shadows and would sooner press the figurative red button than the opposition does not represent progress.
The exit against Sevilla over two legs was a drawn-out suicide note for Mourinho’s already tenuous position as a truly elite manager. The worst part of it is that Mourinho placed his own head in a noose and then asked Sevilla to kick the chair out from under him.
Man United are lacking courage
– “Bailly is what Liverpool fans wished Van Djik was.” Gets routinely destroyed by a good, but not amazing Sevilla attack that had 20 shots in an away match.
– “Pogba is the complete football player and on form is the best midfielder in the league.” £90M midfielder comes on in a knockout tie. Team immediately concedes two goals and looks worse in all areas.
– “Alexis is a game changer and will immediately push United a level up, helping them in the Champions League.” Sets consecutive records for giving the ball away in the league. Goes from an underwhelming team getting knocked out from Europe by European giants to an underwhelming team getting knocked out from Europe by European minnows.
– “Mourinho is a serial winner and will guarantee trophies in his second season once the team has gotten used to his demands.” Spends £300m over two seasons to get knocked out in Round of 16 by a team fifth in La Liga. Moyes did better with United in CL with a worse team. Heck, even Craig Shakespeare did better against this Sevilla team that was far from brilliant.
There was a flux of emails about ‘Mourinho Tactical MasterclassTM’ after last weekend but they all seemed to carry the whiff of desperation about them. United fans only defend Mourinho for his ‘pragmatic’ football because they are terrified that if Jose can’t bring the trophies back using his methods, no one can. But football has moved on from his methods and Jose is not the answer anymore. The level of competitive teams has grown such that as long as your approach to football is to not lose instead of playing to win, you will always be exposed in the long run. And therein lies the crux of my argument. Jose is a coward that plays to not lose, instead of playing to win. He sets up his team to minimize their flaws instead of maximizing their strengths. The players can do better but they won’t in a system designed to minimize mistakes instead of encouraging expansive risk taking. It is easy to have a go at players for not motivating themselves better but it is hard to motivate yourself when your coach does not believe in your abilities to express any natural talent you have.
It is telling that the first reaction among a lot of United fans seems to be what players need to be sold in the summer and what superstars need to be brought in. This is a club that has completely bought into Jose’s delusions. And with recent leaks about Woodward backing Jose over the players, it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.
Falooda in NY (De Gea gifted Sevilla the second goal)
This is creating better Man United fans
Man Utd fans had it so good for twenty years, and some fans had never experience what it was like to support a proper football team A team that ultimately disappoints you and ruins countless weekends, a team that you hate a times, that drives you insane, a team that makes you look at other teams and feel an agonising jealously towards them, a team that claws defeat from the jaws of victory and a team that makes you the butt of countless jokes.
Most football fans have this and most football fans go through all this and continue to love their clubs unconditionally and in my mind I hope this Man Utd is around for many more years and they keep playing the turgid football they have and they continue to disappoint in all of the ‘premier’ competitions.
Then Man Utd fans can count themselves as proper fans.
Fan of a terrible football team
If we play Vardy, we must play on break
Nice article on Vardy. I honestly rate him so highly. He hardly touches the ball during games but always effects them. He hardly gets any chances yet always scores.
If Vardy is to start for England then I think we have to play to his strengths, which is quite clearly on the counter. So owing to this I think one player that hasn’t had a chance yet but has been playing well again we should think about is Jonjo Shelvey. Who would you trust to ping a ball in to Vardy’s path from deep more out of Shelvey or Henderson? Or Livermore? Or Wilshere? If we have Rashford and Sterling on either side of Vardy we are cooking with some serious gas on the break and Shelvey is England’s best passer of the ball! The only problem we have with playing on the counter is we have to actually defend and as it stands we are clutching at straws here. Hopefully Stones can get a bit of form together to feed Shelvey from the back and we are probably looking at Jones alongside him. It doesn’t fill you with confidence but going forward on the break with pace surely has to be our game plan?
Liverpool’s England kids not losers
Interesting article about the young England stars and their search for first team football. I do have to disagree with the two Liverpool players being on the ‘loser section’.
Dominic Solanke hasn’t had too many minutes, but at his age, constantly being involved in first team squads, managing to knock Daniel Sturrridge out of the picture and seemingly being on the same level as decent Premier League striker Danny Ings surely has to be seen as a positive. In his first season at the club. With an England cap.
Rhian Brewster was doing excellently for the U23 squad and has participated in the youth champions league until an unfortunate injury ruined for his season.
If they are at the same stage this time next year then I would agree but for now clear steps have been made towards development.
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